Getting Through Customs

June 11th, 2011

Feathers-blog

We were headed for San Francisco but first we had to clear customs at LAX. The line was long and the children were impatient and tired, yet excited to be back in the United States.  Two years can be a long time. In 1972 the system was quite simple; just rollers on long tables to move our boxes, luggage and individual small private cases which contained each child’s treasures. It was our turn and the official with a stern face and a big badge looked at our assortment.

It would be a challenge to go through everything and we wondered where he would begin. We could see that the bags of the passengers in front of us in line were being closely examined even exposing their personal items. We tried to be patient as we waited for him to begin.  Chris was fidgeting and reached for my hand. Alice was serious as she watched. David, the teenager with arms folded, observed the whole process with a critical eye. Donald put his hand on his small case as if to protect it. After a minute, which seemed like an hour, the customs official began by asking where we had been and how long we had been gone. I said, “We’ve been in Zambia for almost two years. My husband is stationed in Ndola and has six more months of duty.  It was necessary for us to return early.”

“Now, to examine your bags,” he said as he eyed everything. I wondered how I would be able to repack the boxes, which were bulging and held together with strong twine tied in tight knots. The man reached for Donald’s case and Donald reluctantly removed his hand. The catch released easily and as the lid was raised, feathers floated into the air.

An astonished look flashed on the man’s face as he quickly closed the case. He smiled at Donald; then in a stern authoritative voice, “You can pass on.” He signed a paper and handed it to me.  A few feathers floated above our luggage as it rolled down the long table.

©6/11/11